NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Moving Past Your Regrets

Most adults have at least one major regret in their lives that they hold onto and feel unhappy about. Generally speaking, older people tend to be more unhappy about their regrets because they have less time to rectify what they regret or it might be too late for them.  But just holding onto regrets just makes you feel increasingly unhappy, so it's important to learn to let go and move past your regrets.

Moving Past Your Regrets

What are Some of the Most Common Regrets?
While there are many different kinds of regrets, some of the most common regrets tend to involve:

Relationship issues:
  • Missing an opportunity to get to know someone who, in hindsight, turned out to be someone you would have wanted to know
  • Leaving a romantic relationship too quickly
  • Staying in a relationship too long
  • Neglecting your relationship
  • Contributing to the demise of a relationship due to infidelity
Family issues:
  • Being estranged from family members
  • Allowing arguments to fester and harden 
  • Refusing to accept an apology
  • Neglecting to spend enough time with family members
Career decisions:
  • Spending more time at work and missing out on family time
  • Working too much and missing out on having fun
  • Taking a job solely for the money where there is no job satisfaction
  • Quitting a job prematurely

Moving Past Your Regrets: Career and Financial Decisions

Financial issues:
A Life Without Substance or Meaning:
  • Neglecting to consider what's really meaningful to you (see my article: A Search for a Meaningful Life)
  • Focusing mostly on short-term pleasure rather than contributing to the well-being of your loved ones, your community and yourself

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Developing a Meaningful Life

See my article:  Listening to Your Inner Voice to Discover Your "Calling" in Life.

Health issues:
  • Neglecting and, possibly ruining, your health by not developing a health conscious lifestyle
  • Procrastinating about important health issues

How to Move Past Your Regrets When You Can Make Changes:  

Take Action
It's important to take action whether it's external or internal.

So, for instance, if you and a family member are estranged because you severed ties with him or her, assess the situation and consider whether you can take steps to make amends.

You might try sending a carefully written letter or email expressing your regret, owning up to your mistakes, and asking for a reconciliation.  Then, you need to honor his or her response, including a refusal to accept your apology or a lack of response (see my article:  When Your Efforts to Make Amends Are Rejected).

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Taking Action

Another example is that if you've gained a lot of weight and it's starting to affect your health, rather than berating yourself, see your doctor and find out what she or he recommends so you can start to take better care of yourself.  Set reasonable goals for yourself (see my article: Achieving Your Goals: Learn to Celebrate Small Successes Along the Way to the Final Goal).

If you've spent most of your life pursuing trendy lifestyle choices, take some time to think about what's really important to you in the long run.  If your life, so far, has left you feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt, spend time journaling about your core values and how you can live your life so you honor those values (see my article:  Journal Writing Can Help to Relieve Stress and Anxiety).

Accept What You Can't Change
Let's face it:  There will be areas of your life that you regret that you won't be able to change for a variety of reasons.

There are many people who reach the end of their lives and they regret decisions they've made that are too late to change.

As a psychotherapist, I've heard many stories of people who, at the end of their lives, were unable to reconcile with estranged siblings or children.  This is one of the biggest emotional challenges to face when you're close to death.  And for those of us who are younger and healthier, it's a lesson to be learned:  Don't wait until it's too late.

But even if you're not at the end of your life, there will be things that you can't change and which you'll have to accept.

Consider the Lessons You've Learned
If you can make changes and avoid making the same mistakes in the future, that's great.

But even if you can't change what you regret, you can let go of it and realize that you probably learned a valuable lesson that can help you in other areas of your life.

Stop Berating Yourself, Forgive Yourself, and Accept that You're Human
Continuing to beat yourself up for things you did or didn't do won't change anything.  It just makes you feel worse.

Moving Past Your Regrets:  Practice Self Compassion and Learn to Forgive Yourself
A healthy dose of self compassion can go a long way to helping you towards acceptance, letting go, and moving past your regrets.

Getting Help in Therapy
Regret is a common reaction that many people struggle with throughout their lives.

Many people have a very hard time letting go of regrets that continue to haunt them.

Getting Help in Therapy

A licensed mental health practitioner, who has expertise in helping people to let go of regrets, can help you to make peace with yourself so you can develop a healthier sense of well being.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to let go of past regrets.

To find out more about me, visit my website:  Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.